Accidental racist.


I was reading some great old books I downloaded from Project Gutenberg, and came across several passages in these books from the early 1900’s that were positively cringe-worthy.  There were n-bombs, bits about dressing in “black face,” and innuendo about various nationalities and colors.  I happened to be reading one of those books while sitting next to a person of color, and found myself very worried that she would glance over and see something like that in the page I was reading.  Would she think I condoned that language and those ideas?  Would she understand that while I don’t agree with it and don’t speak that way, I can enjoy other aspects of the book, and can appreciate that the racism was a product of that time and society and doesn’t belong in ours?  What I want to know is this: is it racist to read books that were written at a time when racism was a non-issue to many; de rigueur behavior and no one thought anything of open prejudice?  I know for me, I had to stop reading Isaac Asimov even though I love classic science fiction because the blatant sexism was just too rankling.  Also why I don’t read more from many of the Beat authors.  Is it hypocritical that I don’t put down a book that includes racist language?  Maybe because the racism isn’t smacking me in the face in every chapter, I sort of give the book a pass and take it for what it is.  Still, it did make me feel a little racist.